Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Firehouse 12 Fall 09 Series Draws to a Close + CD Pick

The final show for the 13-week series takes place Friday December 18 at Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven and features the Daniel Levin Trio. Led by cellist/composer Levin, the 3-some (also featuring drummer Frank Rosaly and bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten) creates music that combines through-composed lines with challenging improvisations and keeps the listener involved. The music rarely roars but is often filled quietly heated interplay.  A fascinating combination of the sonorous cello and deep, full, tones of the acoustic bass gives this music depth. To find out more about Levin and t get a taste of his original music, go to

The trio plays 2 sets, 8:30 and 10 p.m. - for ticket information, call 203-785-0468 or go to

The Bill Frisell Trio, with Eyvind Kang (violin) and Rudy Royston (drums), will play a special show at Firehouse 12 on Tuesday March 9, 2010.  Two separate sets, 8:30 and 10 p.m., each at the cost of $30.  Last time Frisell was in New Haven, the show sold out in less than a week (and, for good reason - Frisell's music is complex and rich, filled with creative twists and turns.) Call the phone # above for more information.


David Chevan (bass) and Warren Byrd (piano, vocals) have played music together for over a decade, creating a hybrid of African America spirituals, Jewish liturgical music, jazz, blues, country blues and more. Over the years, the Afro-Semitic Experience has grown into quite a working band, with the dynamic rhythm section of Alvin Carter Jr. (drums) and Baba David Coleman (percussion) and the highly expressive violin and dobro of Stacy Phillips.  I've been impressed with the development of reed player Will Bartlett (tenor sax, clarinets) - his voice has gotten stronger in the band's mix, with solos that blend fire and melody. 

For its new recording, "The Road That Heals the Splintered Soul" (Reckless DC Music), the sextet has added the harder-edged sound of trumpeter Saskia Laroo to its mix. Recorded at Firehouse 12, the program really cooks, from the opening "Shout Out From The Mountain", with its Klezmer-influenced horn and string lines over fiery latin/African percussion.  The title track hearkens back to the easy, sweet, soul music of the 1970s , with heartfelt vocals and gospel-influenced piano from Byrd and rich resonator guitar riffs from Phillips. The solos section rides atop Chevan's active walking bass lines. "Adon Olam", a prayer usually sung at the end of the Sabbath morning service, gets a funky Earth, Wind & Fire makeover, with the tenor sax, violin and trumpet weaving in and around the danceable beats. "A Torah Afloat in a Leaky Boat Lands in Congo Square", a tune influenced by events surrounding Hurricane Katrina, builds slowly from percussion and bass to a second-line groove celebration of survival (great clarinet work from Bartlett.)  The tenor saxophonist's "Road to Redemption" opens with a fine piano solo that leads into a bluesy statement of the theme by Laroo.  Later in the tune, Bartlett plays an emotionally rich tenor solo that plays off the emotion of the piece.

The Afro-Semitic Experience continues to evolve as a unit, creating music that is truly American, the America of immigrants who fused their native customs and sounds to the dreams of freedom.  No one voice stands above the fray - this is truly a "team" effort. Highly spiritual but quite earthy, melodically strong and rhythmically charged, "The Road That Heals The Splintered Soul" is a musical journey that goes in many directions but never leaves one unsatisfied. Get the CD then see them live, for this band can really shake the rafters. For more information, go to

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